The Magic of Toy Rotation, and Your Quickstart Guide!

If you’re a parent you know how quickly toys can get out of hand. And maybe you’re wading through a sea of toys currently, feeling the burden of the plastic and clutter, the frustration of toy rooms looking like war zones. Not being able to take a step without being impaled by plastic pieces. Or are you at a loss for why your kids have hundreds of toys but won’t play with anything for longer than a few minutes? Well science has shown us kids do not do well with an overwhelming amount of choices. When all the toys are out all at once, not only does that make a huge mess BUT your child feels the chaotic energy. They are overwhelmed with choice and move from toy to toy rapidly. So what’s the fix? Toy Rotations!!

Rotating toys in small, manageable groups on a frequent basis takes away that feeling of overwhelm. The toys no longer appear hectic, and by giving them less you allow them the ability focus and play MORE. Less toys also boosts creativity, and has been shown to increase patience.

Besides the benefits your kids will get, YOUR life will also change mama!! Toy rotations will drastically improve the clutter and clean up when it comes to toys! We only put out 5-10% of the toys we own. Which means cleaning up takes less than 10 minutes. I have four baskets that hold some combination of vehicles, animals, constructing toys. The boys know each basket is for each thing and then it’s a simple as everyone grabbing a basket and picking up. The remaining items go on the second row of our toy shelf. This is a super manageable and approachable way for kids to clean up. No more feeling like “why bother” or taking an entire weekend to organize / clean your play room.

Where to start?

A starting point is to take inventory of the toys you have and loosely group them into genres. Then try to have one option from each genre available for your child to play with, the genres remain the same but the toys rotate. There is no single perfect way to rotate toys, it will depend on your child and interests and there are no rules when it comes to this. If you don’t have a ton of different vehicles or animals don’t feel like you suddenly have to go out and buy them… just split up the cars you put out and save the second batch for another rotation. Below is a loose frame work so you can get an idea of genres and toys, but it will look different for everyone based on what they have and kids interests.

Bigger Toys:

Things like a play kitchen that invites open ended and small world play are amazing & don’t have to rotate out. If there are toys that your children play with every.single.day don’t feel like you suddenly have to put them away for 3 weeks! For us there are a handful of toys we always have out: their pretend vacuum, guitars and a little bumblebee car they zoom around on. Those are the three things that are being used almost daily. Below is a picture of our actual toy space. In their rooms they don’t have any toys… Each boy has a basket of stuffed animals and a bookshelf.

Our actual toy space.

How often to rotate?

If the toys are off the shelf and on the ground in play you know your toy rotation is solid. When things start staying put on the shelf, switch it up. Or when items are being used for a completely different purpose (my kids in particular love to play “master disaster” and it’s where they just make a huge pile (read: mess) of their toys…. That’s usually a sign to me that they’ve lost interested in the toys that are out. When the dinosaurs make the switch from going on adventures to being part of the the master disaster it’s time to switch them out. That being said, rotating every 1-2 weeks is usually plenty. I will switch out puzzles more frequently because they may not hold interest for 1-2 weeks. The key here is to observe. Notice what your child is playing with or has lost interest in and adapt your rotation accordingly.

Where / how to store the toys?

Clear bins are my BFF for toy storage, I want to be able to see what is what so I can quickly switch toys out. Out of sight, out of reach, therefore out of mind, is best for toys not in rotation. At our old apartment I stored them in Wills closet which had a door. The boys closets in our new home are open, which does invite more pointing to toys from my two year old. But they are familiar with the fact that we rotate toys and if they really want something (I usually need to rotate anyway). Target has 6 packs of small bins for under $10 and i’ve used those to keep things organized. My goal for 2023 is to add more shelving to their closets.

Takeaways

  • There are no rules when it comes to toy rotations, so don’t get caught up on making it perfect.
  • Be clear to your kids that the toys are not being thrown away or going away forever. This should be a positive, fun experience. Frame it as creating a space for THEM to have the most fun and not to have to spend hours cleaning!
  • Categorize your toys the best you can & go from there. Remember to try to have a toy from each genre / category represented.
  • Enjoy the mental and physical space that removing toys will bring you.
J enjoying a new rotation 🙂

Monday Mindset: A holiday pep-talk

Let’s talk IG vs. reality… On the daily instagram serves us ultra-curated snippets of perfection. Perfect angles, perfect lighting, spotless homes with farm sinks and all white aesthetics. And then the holidays hit and it multiplies – elaborate family costumes, porches decorated to the nines, kids smiling in photos. It is so easy to scroll on social media and feel like you aren’t doing, buying, planning, being “enough”. This Monday Mindset is here to remind you are enough and your reality is beautiful even if it looks nothing like one of those curated squares. Let go of the pressures to do/be/buy more & instead just be. Let’s embrace the parts of the holidays we truly enjoy and let the rest of the expectations go! This halloween is completely different for us, because everyone is sick. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt the pangs of disappointment that Will is missing wearing his costume to school and their Halloween Party, but at the end of the day I’m disappointed because I’m attached to that expectation. As soon as I let go of all the expectations I had and welcomed our reality it felt easier to shift gears and decide to make the most of our halloween at home this year. So whether you’re a crafty mom, and event planning mom, an amazon prime mom or some combo like most of us, here’s your reminder to leave your phone in the other room, let go of whatever expectations you’re putting on yourself. The funny thing is when we take a deep breath and slow down and be, our kids mirror that energy and you might just get a genuine smile.

Monday Mindset: How to harness your hardships & why it matters!

We think it’s the happy experiences, the birthdays, the week long vacations, the promotions, that make us happy in life, but it’s not. Ultimately what allows us to find happiness and joy even for the smallest moments is in fact, hardships. How can you appreciate the warm sun on your face, if you’ve never known what it feels to be cold. The same is true in life. Glennon Doyle reminds us “The truest, most beautiful life never promises to be an easy one. We need to let go of the lie that it’s supposed to be”

All of our lives are shaped by a mix of circumstances, choices and luck or lack thereof. And “being happy” is deeply connected to our ability to find joy and optimism regardless of our circumstances.

Consider This: “Your worst memories don’t go away and they don’t get better. But you can get better. You are more than the sum of your suffering.”

Dan Baker, What Happy People Know

Your struggles ultimately leave you with this choice of allowing them to shape you for better or for worse. Choosing to do so isn’t as simple as a flick of a switch. It takes acknowledgment and reflection. For me personally, writing about my experiences has been key to allowing myself to learn and grow from that experience. I wrote a post about Chris’ encephalitis and how I really struggled to process that experience. A textbook trauma response to a situation I had yet to really come to terms with. I so desperately wanted to step around it, vehemently resisting reliving it or talking about it. I simply wanted to “move on”. The funny thing about trauma is, it doesn’t work that way. The harder you slam the door shut on it & the stronger it will boomerang back bursting open. Ignoring hardships or choosing not to engage is not processing. And you certainly can get better by ignoring it.

No matter what your struggles are, big or small they play a key role in your mindset. If you’ve allowed every struggle, every misstep to accumulate, if you’re holding on to blame, and grief, and anger it is undoubtedly weighing you down. Dan Baker puts it simply “other people can hurt your, but only you can victimize yourself”.

If you play this life game long enough you realize that bad ish happens to everyone. Even the happiest person you know has not had a life free from suffering. The magic happens in your response when life is throwing obstacles in your way. We get the opportunity to write our narrative. The story we tell ourselves becomes our life.

Try This: Harness your own hardships

Write! This is my biggest tip for transforming hardship. Write. Write about what it was like. The way it made you feel, give actual names to emotions that come up: helpless, disappointed, lonely, anxious, jealous etc. Whether it was a job you didn’t get, a string of bad luck, whether it was something life altering or something on a smaller scale, these are all opportunities for us to grow. You know how you feel better after a good cry, writing is very similar. You’re able to empty out your mind and your emotions and often will feel a weight lifted.

Reflect on the story you’re telling yourself – is it one of blame, insecurity, anger? Or is it a story that is hopeful, perseverant, joyful, energetic? The words we tell ourselves our incredibly powerful.

Give yourself time – Not every hardship is created equal. Some may effect us for longer or just take more time to sort through. And that is okay, after Chris was in the ICU I so badly just wanted to snap my fingers and for life go back to normal. When in reality it would take over a year before he felt like himself again & it would take me a whole other year to process from that experience.

Ask yourself “what can I learn from this experience”… Once you start writing a page or two a funny thing happens it all pours out!